Carmichael: Police tactics against Chinese protesters amount to a “chilling effect on freedom of speech”

Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael has called on the Government to scrutinise the policing tactics that led to three pro-democracy activists being arrested during the Chinese president’s recent visit to the UK.

A democracy activist and Tiananmen Square survivor was arrested after blocking a motorcade for the Chinese president and holding two banners which read “End autocracy” and “Democracy now”. He was detained overnight and police searched his home and took away computer equipment. Two Tibetan women were also arrested by police after they attempted to wave Tibetan flags at the passing motorcade.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Carmichael said:

The Minister is absolutely right: operational matters are and must be for the police, but when the execution of these operational matters is done in such a way as to risk a chilling effect on freedom of speech, that becomes a matter for this House. I do not see how it would prejudice any future prosecution for the Minister to interrogate those responsible for the policy behind these actions now. Indeed, I suggest to him that he has a duty to do so. Will he do that?

Commenting afterwards, Mr Carmichael said:

“The right to protest peacefully is an intrinsically British value that underpins our democracy. Such heavy handed police tactics are not consistent with the traditions of policing. I share the concerns of many in the country that peaceful and legitimate protesters have been treated in this way. Reports of two people arrested for simply waving the flag of Tibet is very worrying indeed.

“I welcome the Metropolitan Police’s review into these arrests, but I call on the Government to examine the need for the policies that led to charges being brought. The Home Office is ultimately responsible for this policy, and I hope they will now consider the effect it may have on people’s freedom of speech.”

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